Testimony: Marla Ayatsuka

“Konichi wa” my dearest Trim Healthy Mamas! My name is Marla Ayatsuka. I have been a Trim Healthy Mama here on the mission field in Japan for 6 years now!!!

I am originally from West Texas. I came to Japan as a short term missionary right after graduating from college. I met my husband who was a translator for our mission team during those two years and we decided to team up to take the Gospel to the Japanese for the rest of our lives together (in other words, get hitched)! Best decision I have ever made. I’ve now been in Japan for 23 years, more than half of my life.

I was a really thin person in my teens, really probably underweight due to heavy medication for serious asthma. My eating habits were terrible. Breakfast was a Snickers bar and a Dr. Pepper during 10 minute break at school. I drank only Dr. Pepper all day every day. College was much the same although I think I was just too busy to overeat and that is probably why I never put on extra weight when I got out of my teens. Then moving overseas meant I didn’t have access to as much Dr. Pepper or easy instant foods and I was too busy to eat too much.

When I married that all changed. I started eating as much as my husband ate and it quickly caught up to me. Twice I gained about 18-20 kilo (40-50 pounds) and then would get strict about exercising and counting calories and lose it. I bounced back and forth in my late 20s and early 30s, sometimes trying extreme diets like meal replacement shakes for two of the three meals of the day and so forth. I could keep up the strict diet and calorie burning for a while but always would lose the momentum. Two kids, homeschooling and our full time ministry began to make it difficult to spend an hour or two in the gym 3 or 4 times a week.

In my mid 30s I started to have horrible back pain which could not be explained and nothing helped to relieve it. This resulted in being unable to exercise and I put on all that weight again. By the time I was in my late 30s I was desperate for some way to control that pain. I felt helpless since I could not burn calories through intense exercise as I had always done. Being unable to exercise for some reason made me lose any motivation to eat carefully and I stopped counting calories as well.

At an international conference near Mt. Fuji over New Years 2015 where we were leading worship, the conference director asked me if I had ever heard of THM. She saw my pain (and my weight gain was obvious) and told me her story of how it had improved her health so much. I was intrigued so I downloaded the eBook (the original large book) and read the whole thing right away while staying in our room at the conference with one of my sons who was in bed with a fever. I had no access to special ingredients but for the remainder of our trip I applied the basic concept of no sugar, having protein with every meal and keeping carbs and fats separate. Plus I started eating something every 3-4 hours. By the time we got home at the end of that week I had lost two kilo. I was shocked! I felt I was eating more than I had been in a long time, and more often, yet I was losing, how does that work!?

I immediately placed an order from an online store that would ship internationally. I ordered sweetener, flax seed meal, almond meal, and Gluccie. Then about two weeks later my daughter walked in the room when I was changing clothes and she gasped and said, “Mom, what happened to your legs, they’re shrinking!” The scale had not moved since that initial 2 kilo (about 5 pounds) loss three weeks prior but my body was continuing to change.

I was hooked! My goal was to lose the weight by my 40th birthday in May of that year. Obviously I did not get all 18 kilo (40 pounds) off by May because that isn’t the THM way. But by my 40th birthday I was well on my way and I was having to buy new clothes because everything I owned was falling off of me. And buying clothes for this tall American shaped cowgirl in Japan is not easy to do!

It took more than a year to get the entire 18 kilo off but it was a steady process and I was enjoying what I was eating and easily able to adjust no matter where we were or what we were doing. I use very few special ingredients, and Japanese food easily lends itself to building an S or an E meal.

I have now kept the weight off for 6 years, my back pain is almost completely nonexistent as long as I’m careful not to exacerbate it, my allergies and asthma are VERY easily managed for the first time in my life, and the adult acne I had struggled with since my 20s is GONE! I even no longer have the daily congestion in my throat that made morning concerts difficult and I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve had a sinus infection or cold since starting THM (when before I dealt with some form of illness many times a year).

I make THM simple, with very few special ingredients. Occasionally I will place an order for Baking Blend or some Gentle Sweet but the shipping to Japan is difficult to do on a missionary income, so I make do with what we can get here mostly. Praise God for Costco in Japan!

S meals are easiest for me. I don’t use as much cheese, cream cheese and all those rich dairy dishes as it is expensive here but I eat lots of stir fried meat and veggies. I get most of my good fats from coconut or olive oil, meat, eggs, and avocado! I make my own almond milk and save the strained almond meal in the freezer. When I have enough of it I dry it in a low temp oven and powder it to use to make muffin in a mug, and some of the pancake and waffle recipes.

E meals can be a little more challenging to get variety in. I don’t have access to any store bought bread on plan (like Ezekiel bread) and the whole grain flours are rare and expensive here. I can get quinoa and lots of oatmeal at Costco. I use a lot of brown rice and sweet potato for E meals as well. I also occasionally make my own sourdough bread but it is hard to keep the house the right temperature for it in the winter and summer, so that is an occasional treat.

I have been at goal weight now for four years so I enjoy crossovers about once a day or so. My favorite crossover is a bowl of brown rice with about a teaspoon or two of seasoned spicy garlic red pepper oil flavoring on top, with a huge salad covered in lots of yummy oil dressing, and some kind of meat. I also enjoy my crossover sometimes at breakfast with a bowl of oatmeal with a little butter and a whole egg stirred in right after I turn off the flame. The whole egg gives me that protein I need to make it through the morning without getting hungry again, and it makes the oatmeal so creamy and thick. It’s yummy with some sweetener, tons off cinnamon and several shakes of black pepper! BUT it is also yummy Japanese style, flavored salty with some miso paste stirred in at the end!

We have Indian friends who live nearby and run an Indian restaurant. The wife is my precious sister in the Lord and she has taught me to make some amazing Indian curries! I LOVE an amazing bowl of rich spicy curry either as a crossover on brown rice, OR as an S meal with cauli-rice, when I can find cauliflower at the store.

My husband and kids don’t eat strictly THM but because I now cook with simple whole foods, their diets have changed too. My husband lost about 5 or 6 kilo as a result of the new style of eating even though he doesn’t follow the S and E rules, and usually adds white rice or bread to whatever I’ve made. Same for the children. I cook so that our main course is a THM dish with lots of veggies, and they add rice, noodles, or bread. I usually cook so that there are plenty of leftovers in case the next meal is totally off plan (for example an easy stir fried noodle, cold rice noodles in summer, or udon soup) so that I can serve them what is made, and I can just pull out leftovers to stay on plan. They are all much more aware of how much sugar is in things, and even though they don’t avoid it completely, they are much more conscious of how much sugar they are consuming. Everyone in my family has given up sugary drinks! And my son who is only 11 almost never eats sugar as a result of knowing the THM basics from the homeschool curriculum and watching Mommy avoid sugar.

When we are on the road I sometimes cannot avoid eating off plan for a meal here and there. When we have been invited to a church to do a concert, when I am served a meal lovingly made by the church people I do my best to eat what I am served (maybe sometime slipping some food I’d rather not eat to my husband when no one is looking, LOL) but the beautiful thing about THM is that just three hours later I am right back on track. When at restaurants it is surprisingly easy to find a meat on the menu and add a salad, or order an entrée and just leave the off plan carb untouched or asked them to exclude it from my order. There are also a few restaurants that will allow you to replace noodles with shiitake noodles or Konjac noodles as those are a staple food in Japan and the Keto Diet or low-carb eating is becoming popular here. Convenience stores in Japan offer amazing foods for healthy meals, I can get a bag of salad and just tear the side open and pour a small pack of dressing in and eat right out of the bag with my chopsticks the convenience store provides. Then I add to that a protein that they have many choices for, cheese or a boiled egg or a “salad chicken breast” which is seasoned and shrink wrapped for an easy salad topping. Convenience stores in Japan are a Trim Healthy Mamas dream!

I’ve shared THM with some Japanese women and have several ladies who follow the plan. We have a small Japanese Facebook group and quite a few local ladies in our church and Bible studies are on board with me too. My own mother-in-law has even joined me. She had been complaining about her growing belly and her inability to lose it even though she is an avid swimmer. I kept telling her she should join me and she would balk at the concept of avoiding white rice and sugar, LOL. I couldn’t convince her. Then she had knee surgery a few years ago and was being told that her blood tests were showing her blood sugar to be consistently too high. Her a1c was in the pre-diabetic range and this got her attention as her father had many complications from diabetes. She immediately started applying the basic concepts in her own way from what she could get at her own grocery store and it was amazing. She easily shed about 5 kilo and her belly just disappeared. She had to start eating crossovers often to avoid losing too much weight as her doctor was telling her that her weight was getting too low. Since she is in her 70s her a1c has not dropped too drastically but it fell just below the pre-diabetic range and is holding steady. I love sharing the THM lifestyle with others and wish I had time to hold classes and really teach it, but right now homeschool and our ministry take most of my time so I am holding off on that until I can devote more time to it (mainly when homeschool is done).

My dream is to one day make THM a part of reaching out to the Japanese. It is so easy to connect the THM lifestyle to the knowledge of the God who made us and who made food. We already do some cooking classes as a way to reach out to those around us, so eventually when I can handle the extra time to put into it, I want THM classes and THM cooking classes to be added to our ministry. I am dreaming of that day!

After my first year as a Trim Healthy Mama I was SO blessed to be invited to become an admin in the Facebook groups and later as a Mod Mama on the THM site. What an amazing group of women there are that serve this online community. I love them dearly and was even able to meet many of them face to face last year. I cannot tell you how much the Lord has used THM to enrich my life, not only my health and my family but also through the relationships with other Trim Healthy Mamas. I am a THM for life! And maybe even in eternity because I think everything at that wedding feast we’ll be having will be on plan and crossovers will be my go to in eternity, LOL!!!

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